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Online poker players can skip Europe and still win

Online poker players, including Canadian stars like Daniel Negreanu, Mike McDonald, and Xian Liu, are heading to Europe in droves to participate in major tournaments. However, with this year’s WSOPE being held in Cannes, France, instead of London, players who want to hit both EPT and WSOP events have to factor in additional travel costs. Many online poker players simply aren’t able to keep up with the additional expenses required to participate. Online poker players have a lot on their plates right now – like cash tied up with shutdown sites like Full Tilt Poker – that make coming up with funds harder than ever.

“Players need to take advantage of online options to get a spot in a major tournament,” explained Poker.ca spokesperson Paul Ryan. “It’s expensive for Canadians to go to Europe, so satellite events offering travel packages are one way to get there. But a safer bet would be to play online poker tournaments that don’t require travel.”

888 Poker is a top destination for Canadian players, Ryan elaborated. “Here’s a site where players can be right in the action without investing thousands of dollars in hotels and plane tickets. There’re even freeroll tournaments so Canadians who can’t afford big buy-ins can still play for real money just like their idols are doing right now in Europe.”

Party Poker has a great opportunity on offer as well, Ryan added, worth up to $3 million in prizes. “It’s stuff like this that makes online poker so accessible no matter your financial circumstances. This is how we can keep enjoying the game even when our responsibilities make it impossible to head overseas to play.”

“With sites like 888 bringing the thrill and potential profit of big tournaments directly to our homes, competitors begin on equal footing where nothing but skill matters – not the economy, not our ability to pay for travel. Those things don’t dictate our chances to play and win,” said Ryan. “And that’s the beauty of online poker.”

Pokerstars, Fulltilt Poker, and UltimateBet Poker shut down

This was a very bad Friday for the online poker industry in the U.S., as Pokerstars, Fulltilt Poker, Ultimatebet Poker, and Absolute Poker were all shut down by the FBI. As of now their domains have stopped working completely, and this is certainly a big hit for the online poker industry.

Most of you are probably asking yourselves why this happened. It has long been known that online gambling is illegal in the U.S., ever since 2006 when the UIGEA passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which declared illegal all online gaming processing in the US. This law was a game changer in the online gambling industry for many well established legal companies, who ran very good poker sites for US players such as Party Poker, 888 Poker, Playtech, and Microgaming, who had to give up their online business in the U.S. and gamble on other markets instead. Most of these companies are now well spread out across Canada, which has a more tolerant approach to online gambling and gambling in general, especially since there isn’t the same pressure from land-based casinos, as in the U.S., where land-based casinos in Vegas put massive pressure on the U.S. government to rule out online gaming, which caused a significant decrease in profit at their land-based casino businesses.

However, this is just one side of the story, because when a law is made, opportunity knocks as well, and there is always a loophole. This time it was big enough to contain the new players in the U.S. poker industry – Pokerstars, Fulltilt, and Absolute Poker (which also runs Utimatebet Poker, and UB.com). These companies simply claimed poker is actually a sport, and does not fit in the same category like playing online casino games such as slot machines or roulette. They might actually have a point there – as a Canadian poker player myself, for me poker is a sport. In fact, it’s a way of life, but that’s me. I am absolutely sure fellow Canadians feel exactly the same way – if you have a TV channel for poker, if it is broadcast on ESPN, why couldn’t it be online as well? I’ll tell you why – because the US government in strongly influenced by Las Vegas, and they have seen a decrease in profits since the day companies like 888 entered the gaming market and started spinning the wheels outside of the US, where the government simply can’t take its fair share of the profits. Vegas and the U.S. government have been losing young gamblers who would rather sit and gamble from their laptops instead of having to go to Sin City and spend more money for the privilege – this is the real issue.

And so, companies like Pokerstars, Fulltilt, and Ultimatebet did whatever they could to look like they are running a sports-related business and not an online gambling site. Pokerstars sponsored Daniel Negreanu and many other successful poker players; Fulltilt sponsored Phil Ivey; and Ultimatebet sponsored the UFC, wrestling, and more.

These sponsorships proved to be massive money makers for these companies, who rapidly became the largest poker rooms in the industry. Well, there wasn’t a lot of competition to deal with, that’s correct – but other attempts by similar companies weren’t as successful. But it’s not only that – what happened on Friday, April 15, gives us insigt into the real reasons behind the succeses of Pokerstars, Fulltilt, and Ultimatebet/Absolute Poker: Processing. If you’re a poker room who accepts U.S. players, that’s great, but who in the hell would process online transaction when the FBI can just log into your software, process a transaction, and arrest you for illegal gambling transaction processing? Remember, as mentioned above, every law is also an opportunity of profit. Well, Daniel Tzvetkoff, the man who was allegedly behind the payment processing scheme at sites such as Pokerstars, Fulltilt and Ultimatebet, was the one to take this opportunity, and turn it into a multi-billion dollar business. Last April, Tzvetkoff was arrested and charged for money laundering, bank fraud conspiracy for processing over half a billion illegal internet gambling transactions through Intabill – the processing company he had set up.

The idea behind the processing scheme used by these sites was to process all transactions as jewelry, golf equipment, etc., instead of as online gambling transactions. This was a good deal until Tzvetkoff got greedy and decided to save some more of the percentage of transactions for himself. Greed kills, they say, and this move was certainly disliked by the owners of Pokerstars, Fulltilt, and Ultimatebet, who decided to file a lawsuit against Tzvetkoff. This decision exposed their online poker profits right in front of the eyes of the FBI, who at this point decided it was enough to try getting their hands on Tzvetkoff himself, and, like in the old days when the authorities would take down the financial minds behind the mafia in order to get to the whole organization, the same was done here. Tzvetkoff was just the mind behind the scheme. What the feds really aimed to get were those running the main event – and so they did.

As of this point, charges are being filed against them and it’s not looking pretty. They are looking at five to twenty years in prison, and a up to $3 billion in accumulative fines. In addition to that, their online businesses were completely seized, generating a loss of over $10M a day.

So, who is to gain from all of this? It is yet unknown. Partygaming has already settled a claim with the U.S. Department of Justice, costing its owners a lot of money, even from a billionaire’s standpoint. Playtech, with its highly rated iPoker network, should also stand to profit – except they cannot accept American players. Well, it seems the online gambling industry is now going through its legalization phase. It is yet to be determined, but it seems that within the next one or two years the online gaming industry will be legalized within the U.S., the same as it is now legal in the U.K., France, and several other European countries.

Until then, poker players, we’ll have to sit back and wait for the next poker room to arrive, as when the demand for online poker is so high, there will always be someone to take advantage of it, legal or not.

Chris Moneymaker defeats Canadian Duhamel

Chris Moneymaker has done more for poker’s reputation than just about any other pro player out there. His performance at the Main Event of the extremely memorable 2003 World Series of Poker brought more attention to poker than ever before, making the game part of the mainstream culture in a way it has never been before. Since then, Moneymaker has faced much criticism for not matching that performance in recent years, and many people question whether he continues to have what it takes to stay relevant in a fast-paced, quickly changing sport like poker.

These mounting criticisms have been gaining steam over the past year in particular as Moneymaker failed to captivate audiences as before or win big like everyone expected him to. But thanks to finishing eleventh at the Caribbean Adventure event at the top of the year, and now second at the Heads-Up Poker Finals this month, critics are standing down. While Moneymaker didn’t manage to take first place at this competitive event, he managed to beat some pretty stiff competition to get to the final table. Not only did he beat John Racener, the runner-up at the 2010 WSOP Main Event, but he also beat Canadian Jonathan Duhamel, the 2010 WSOP champion, just to make it to the heads-up match against Erik Seidel. Moneymaker took down two of last year’s most successful poker players just to have a shot at this title, which has redeemed his status in the eyes of many former doubters.

It’s clear that Chris Moneymaker is still a vital part of the poker world, and it’s about time everyone remembered it.

Negreanu to take on Isildur1

Daniel Negreanu will battle Isildur1 on March 20 and 27 One of the most established names in poker is set to take on the newest hot player in the online poker world in what is sure to be one of the most interesting poker showdowns in quite some time. Daniel Negreanu of Canada, an undisputed poker legend of the live tournament scene, will take on Viktor Blom of Sweden, who achieved global fame over the past year as the latest anonymous online poker player — known only as Isildur1 — to make millions.

The showdown will be held at PokerStars over the course of two consecutive Sundays, March 20 and 27. Both Negreanu and Blom will bring in $150,000 apiece and play 2,500 hands the first day beginning at 3 p.m., followed by another session of equal number the next week.

Negreanu was ranked first on the all-time poker earner list until last week when poker veteran Erik Seidel won $700,000 and took his place on top. Blom has only been known to poker fans since late 2009 when he drew eyes from all over the world by winning (and losing) huge sums online.

No matter how this duel turns out, it’s sure to be entertaining to follow!

Gambling enthusiasts – and gambling opponents – have been around forever

When we say gambling has been around forever, it’s not an overstatement. Evidence exists that suggests people in prehistoric periods were into gambling – that’s more than forty thousand years ago! Ancient Egyptians cast lots (the ancient equivalent of shooting dice), and so did people in Mesopotamia, ancient China, and India. The Greek and the Romans were into casting lots as well, as well as betting on sporting events, battles between animals, and other gambling activities. Even in Canada, Europeans stumbled upon aboriginals enjoying games and gambling more than four hundred years ago.

The love of chance is prevalent across the entire globe, more or less from the dawn of all human civilization – as is the human penchant for limiting, controlling, or otherwise regulating this beloved and pervasive activity.

Kings and rulers, themselves huge fans of gambling, outlawed the act while continuing to partake of it underground. In Canada, all gambling of any kind was forbidden in 1992 by the infamous Criminal Code. However, with that ban – and the elimination of all competition – came an enormous increase in revenue for the government, from around $2.7 billion back in 1992 to nearly $12 billion a decade later. That number is even higher now thanks to the intense popularity of online poker and online casinos, making the human affection of games of chance even more available to people everywhere.

Thousands of years of limits, laws, and penalties have failed to eliminate gambling. Nearly every society throughout history has attempted it at some point, but people will not be stopped from doing what it seems they almost universally enjoy doing, even if it means risking trouble. Canadians are no exception, as our love for poker and other casino games, sports betting, and any number of gambling activities have only increased in popularity over the years even as regulations tighten. Here’s hoping the people in charge will take a look back through history and realize their energy may be best spent elsewhere, as things apparently never change.

Gillian Epp, Canadian pro poker player

Gillian Epp is an up-and-coming female pro poker star from Canada For better or worse, there aren’t a lot of serious female competitors in the world of poker — whether it’s because women aren’t as into poker as men or because there’s no room for girls at the table is anyone’s guess. But this lack of women in the pro poker community makes the ones who do succeed stand out all the more. One of the latest names in pro poker is Gillian Epp, a Canadian female player who has been active in the live tournament circuit for going on three years.

In her late teens Epp discovered how much she enjoyed playing poker for fun with friends and was almost instantly recognized by opponents as having an innate talent for the game. At 19, Epp decided to pursue this poker talent by absorbing and experiencing as much as possible when it came to her game of choice. She shunned continuing at university and instead dealt cards at a small, local casino in western Canada while constantly reading about poker in her free time. Dealing at the casino as well as online play gave her an insider perspective on the game to round out her studies, and soon she felt prepared to try to make money by using her new skills rather than just dealing cards. Within two years she had made enough to move into high-stakes poker tournaments. The rising poker star, now 26, lives in Vancouver. She prefers live poker to online games, and believes that playing between 10 and 15 hours of live poker per week is just about perfect. This doesn’t include quick online poker games though, which she likes to squeeze in whenever possible.

The Canadian roots of PokerStars

PokerStars is perhaps the most recognizable name in the online poker community, and by far the most popular online poker room around the globe. Even if players don’t use the site or its software, they’ve undoubtedly cheered for the players sponsored by PokerStars – Canadians Daniel Negreanu and Jonathan Duhamel, to name a few. With $1.4 billion in annual revenue, this site dominates the playing field and has incredible resources to sponsor big tournaments and big players.

What many fans don’t realize, however, is that PokerStars has Canadian roots. The founder, Isai Scheinberg, was working as a programmer for IBM in Ontario when he created the software to run the PokerStars website back in 2000. Moreover, PokerStars operated from the Kahnawake Mohawk reservation in Quebec until 2008, when online poker and online gambling in general began to be more heavily regulated and limited by the sanctioned monopoly provincial governments hold on the right to run anything related to gambling.

The importance of PokerStars was acknowledged this month in Bluff Magazine’s list of the top twenty most influential men (note: no women made the list) in the world of poker, both online and offline. Isai Scheinberg came in second, behind only Howard Lederer, co-founder of Full Tilt and a professional player himself, who has been a very visible and active ambassador for the game.

While PokerStars is no longer operated in Canada, we can still be proud to have been such an important part of online poker history.

Has Canadian online poker sensation XBLINK returned?

There is no shortage of mystery heroes in the online poker world. The internet is the perfect venue for maintaining anonymity, even at a poker table. Players can win – and lose – millions of dollars without anyone ever knowing his or her actual name, who they are, or how they got involved in poker to begin with. One such online poker hero is XBLINK, the player who took Ultimate Bet by storm throughout 2010, turning a measly $11 into more than $1 million with nothing but his wit and poker skills.

The only thing anyone knows about this mystery hero is that he is a Canadian from Vancouver, and he is said to be twenty years old. The idea of someone so young making such a splash captivates the imaginations and attention of anyone paying attention to the online poker community, and XBLINK was an instant celebrity. And now a second online poker player, XWINK, just won nearly $660,000 in a single night, dominating perhaps the biggest online poker celebrity with a face: Phil Ivey. Due to the similarity in the names, people are speculating that this new XWINK must be the Canadian XBLINK playing from a new account.

Only time will tell if these suspicions are correct. In the meantime, people will continue to eat up any news about mystery heroes winning and losing vast sums of money online.

Erik Seidel surpasses Daniel Negreanu – for now

The Heads-Up Poker Championship was held this past weekend, and Erik Seidel, the 51-year-old American poker star, took first place. This win marked his third major victory in as many months, making 2011 a remarkable year for this poker veteran. Not only is this third victory of 2011 an accomplishment all its own, but it also marks another milestone: Seidel is now, for the first time, the world’s premier all-time top earner for live poker tournaments. His total finally surpassed Canadian Daniel Negreanu’s on Sunday, March 6. Seidel, with $14.6 million in winnings, now sits at the top of the list of elite poker players.

The amount that pushed him to the top was $750,000. While this is an impressive sum, it’s not even his career best for one tournament. But when taken together with the more than half a million dollars he won at the February Aussie Millions tournament by placing third at the no-limit hold’em challenge and the nearly $300K he won in January for taking fourth at the no-limit high roller event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Seidel seems to be on the winning streak of his career. Being rewarded by topping the all-time earner list is just icing on the cake for this poker icon.

Canadian fans need not worry, however. Daniel Negreanu will undoubtedly pose a challenge to Seidel in the months to come. Even Seidel doesn’t plan on holding the top spot for long. He acknowledged his expectation that this honour is likely a fleeting, “temporary thing,” and Negreanu will likely surpass him to recapture his number one position at any moment.

6th Miriam Foundation Montreal Open

This is the sixth year that the Miriam Foundation will benefit from the Montreal Open live poker tournament, which is scheduled to be held on March 27 through 30 this year. Once again this event has proven to be Canada’s largest charity poker tournament, drawing about 1,500 players from around the country as well as the world.

The price to register for the tournament is $275, which buys a stack of $5,000 as well as meals and a drink. Days one through three are reserved for narrowing down the competition, and the top hundred players from this first round of play will advance to round two. The top thirty players from the second round will be flown to Las Vegas for the final showdown. The prize pool will be worth over $250,000 and include ten entries to the main event at the WSOP. The other twenty finalists will receive tickets to the next Montreal Open.

All the biggest names in Canadian poker are planning to make an appearance at this year’s charity event, including such stars as Gavin Smith. Experts are expecting this year’s event to be the biggest and most prestigious one yet thanks to Canada’s elevated status in the poker world after Jonathan Duhamel’s massive victory at the WSOP Main Event last November.

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